Vincenzo Italiano picked Christian Kouamé at striker for the first time this year. He also must have breathed a sigh of relief that Lucas Martínez Quarta was cleared to play, allowing him to join Luca Ranieri (making his first Serie A start of the year) in the heart of defense. Both ex-Hellas Verona players on the Viola roster—Sofyan Amrabat and Antonín Barák—got the nod as well.
Gabriele Cioffi picked Isak Hien and Ajdin Hrustic in more of a 3-4-1-2 in front of a robust contingent of travelings supporters, who enjoyed a friendly atmosphere due to the gemellaggio with the home fans. Those home fans, by the way, were in fine song despite Fiorentina’s struggles; the Stadio Artemio Franchi must be the most underrated home advantage in Serie A.
Hellas Verona pushed very high in the early going, leaving a lot of space for Fiorentina to break into, and the hosts accepted the gift, constantly pouring forward as Kouamé’s excellent movement caused the Gialloblù defense problems from the word go. It was Jonathan Ikoné, though, who got the opener with a magnificent solo effort for his first goal of the season.
The Viola, though, weren’t anywhere near done. Indeed, they probably should’ve scored at least a couple more, but goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipò made stop after stop to deny them. Martínez Quarta’s header off a corner was maybe the best, but Lorenzo Venuti had a glorious chance and Kouamé wasted a couple as well. The best chance, though, came to Cristiano Biraghi. Kouamé played a neat 1-2 with Ikoné and was clearly barged over by Diego Coppola.
But Biraghi’s spot kick was, well, not good. He got plenty of power but put it right next to Montipò.
Moments later, Thomas Henry tucked home at the back post following a corner, but the flag was up. That passage, though, was an indication that the visitors were turning it up, but their tactic of launching it forward for Henry and Kevin Lasagna meant they never had anything resembling control, and it was Fiorentina who looked miles better at the break.
The Scaligers weren’t quite done, though, and and applied some pressure after the break as Fiorentina slowed down a bit, losing their tempo and allowing the visitors to get back into it, although the defense mostly held firm, allowing few clear-cut chances. After some scuffling, the drama came on the other end, where Koray Günter was lucky to avoid a red card after chopping down Kouamé in the open field. Moments later, Simone Verdi found Yahah Kallon in behind, but Pietro Terracciano made a good save to deny the Genoa loanee. Finally, though, the Viola put it to bed via Nicolás González, who turned home a low cross from Rolando Mandragora after a glorious pass from Alfred Duncan set him through.
That pretty well settled the match, and the remaining few minutes were pretty much just the beginning of the after party.
Goals: Ikoné 13’ (ass. Venuti), González 89’ (ass. Mandragora)
Cards: Mandragora 22’, Amrabat 32, Bonaventura 58’, Barák 74’; Coppola 25’, Henry 34’, Hien 46’, Günter 76’
Despite the miserable month, Fiorentina can go into the international on a high note, having won their first Serie A match since opening day. Welcome returns for LMQ and González are certainly encouraging, but the main story may be that Kouamé looks like the best striker in Tuscany right now, giving Italiano a lot to think about over the next couple of weeks. For now, though, let’s just enjoy a Viola win for the first time in weeks. They earned it and we deserved it.